It has been over a year since All Points Bulletin and Realtime Worlds closed their doors, but thankfully that wasn’t the end of the game thanks to All Points Bulletin: Reloaded and GamersFirst. Recently fresh out of beta, APB: Reloaded attempts to fix all of the faults that caused the game not to last past the first three months while supplying new and fresh content. Is that enough to fix a game with one of the shortest lifespans in MMOG history or is APB doomed from the start?
APB: Reloaded makes the use of user generated content and voice chat. While it’s not the wild west of allowing free content, you can find profane subject matter rather easily. That’s on top of a game rated M (Mature 17+) for a laundry list of reasons (Blood, Drug References, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Violence). So this is defiantly not one for the kids.
The basic game plays as follows. It’s a story of cops (Enforcers) and robbers (the aptly named Criminals) in an all-out war in San Paro. It’s an MMO with a Grand Theft Auto like experience complete with cars, guns, and dynamic missions. Players pick their side and are given tasks to complete that either involve them breaking or enforcing the law while other players are dispatched to stop them. Criminals may be asked to steal something valuable while Enforcers would be tasked to prevent them from doing so at all costs. The auto-grouping system places players together to try and coax them into working together while an “ask for backup” system allows players to beg for additional help should the teams unbalance themselves. Oh, don’t forget the full character customization suite (and when I say suite, I mean it, we’re talking car, body, music, clothes, and more) that is extraordinarily robust (and some players may find more exciting than trying to slay one another in mortal combat).
The game is fun and exciting, but some may opt to play the social game more than the actual combat.
APB:R is billed as a tactical shooter but there isn’t as much "tactical" as it is a fairly true-to-form MMO. There is a one size fits all hit box for characters meaning that there are no headshots (aka “skillshots”). So a sniper rifle does full damage if you blast someone in the head or in the torso. There also isn’t much to the combat beyond point at the enemy and click, and of course, upgrading your weapon.
There isn’t any fancy pantsy Warriors and Warlocks or Medics and Spies in APB:R. Instead you have access to all of the weapons in the game (as you unlock them and can only procure them for 10 days at a time) and that determines your effective damage/power. This lends the game to more skill versus “leveling up”, although you’ll find yourself coming to a gun fight with a pickle versus a bazooka when you first start, and will have to grind your way to that “balanced from start to finish” part.
As much as I rag on the combat, there are drastic improvements over the original game. Weapons deal more damage making fights take less time, servers are stable, and Punkbuster does a good job keeping the hackers at bay. Car physics has drastically improved too, although you’ll still want to upgrade your vehicle in order for it to not drive like an ice cream truck loaded down with grand pianos.
APB is also a game that rewards practice and involvement. Things can get hairy when you fight against even opponents not equipped with the starting pickle and the game can be a blast once you’ve gotten over the steep learning curve. Like how to avoid grenades, how to avoid people sneaking up on you, how to switch weapons, and other things the more experienced players will use against you. This isn’t a game to judge for the first hour or the first day, although you will die endlessly at the start until you get a better hold of the game and better weapons (at least the cucumber, squash, or above).
Of course, by the time you do become skilled, the lack of mission variation (or any variation at all) may have soured you on an otherwise alright game.
One thing this game does not have going for it is its graphics. The only reason it gets a 65 instead of a 20 is that the free-to-play market has some of the worst games for graphics out there and APB:R is definitely one notch above them. That isn’t to say the game looks horrible. Nay, it just doesn’t look good. We’re talking pixelated buildings, generic graphics everywhere, and character models that look more Saints Row 2 than Call of Duty.
Explosions are rather showy, but are one of the quickest ways to find yourself at the respawn point.
You won’t go blind from playing, but you’re not going to write home about any gorgeous graphics here. The player created tags adorning the various vehicles help mix up the rather bland mudded out landscape. You can turn the settings up and the bloom filter, but that isn’t much either.
You’ll see a bright and shiny 80 there because the game would snag a 100 for simply allowing you to use your own music or stream from Last.fm if the police siren and horn did not exist. You’ll find that you’ll need these two tools to stop pedestrians from getting in your way (as an Enforcer) and will face drastic penalties should you run them over. Sadly, you’ll need to blare both and hope that the sound is annoying enough to make them flee out of your way.
Otherwise, most of the sound in the game comes from either the built in mixer studio, Last.fm, or your own hard drive and you can pick and choose your tunes as you ride through town. Should you be playing something that no one else has then Last.fm will attempt to match a similar song. Music aficionados can become their own virtual DJs in the social districts by blaring their own custom made tunes for the general populace, providing a neat audio related gameplay experience.